Robinson: Media needs to restore trust

Nick Robinson

The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson has warned that politicians and the media have "become trapped in a vicious circle in which they compete to denigrate each other".

Speaking in Salford on Tuesday, where he was delivering the inaugural Brian Redhead lecture, Robinson said both parties had been through recent "crises of trust" including the MPs' expenses scandal and Leveson Inquiry into press conduct.

"Journalists don't have the same interests as politicians and shouldn't, but we are all in this together when it comes to re-establishing trust," he said.

He added the lack of trust was because, "Too often, the public think we are all in this together - politicians, media and yes, bankers too - as part of a world of people who went to the same universities, send their children to the same schools, eat in the same restaurants or call each other by their first names. A world that has let people down."

Brian Redhead Brian Redhead was a close friend of Nick Robinson

Robinson said this was why he was "a cheerleader" for the BBC's presence in Salford, "because I think our journalism needs, at all times, to have a different perspective… a non-London perspective, a non-capital city perspective."

Question of balance

During the lecture, named after the late Today broadcaster, Robinson suggested there should be "more news items where we don't balance within the item… where we say to a politician, 'This is your go and the other lot can have a go later'."

He also said live two-ways should focus more on what politicians said, instead of their "motive and effect", and questioned the use of "the punchiest clip if it's simply delivering a carefully market-researched, closely-scripted, highly-partisan insult directed at their opponents".

Robinson also said politics had focused too much on "spin, sleaze and splits" in the last 18 years, and not enough on substance, but the media had sometimes "made it worse".

"Trust, in my view, will only really be restored when people feel we are having a proper debate about the substantive issues that really affect their lives."

Start Quote

I think the best, clearest and most engaging explanation of the world is often on Newsround or 5 live”

End Quote Nick Robinson Political editor, BBC News

On the impact of social media, he said there was a tendency for bloggers and people on Twitter to talk to "other people like themselves...hearing their own opinions relayed to them."

"All too often that's not even broadcasting themselves, it's not even narrowcasting, it is very very very narrowcasting - it is talking to your chums and that isn't what we are paid to do."

He added that, apart from honourable exceptions, "The other thing that those blogs and tweeters trade largely in opinion, comment, sometimes prejudice...they're all too often not facts or reporting or original journalism, and the danger of that is there is a kind of spiral of cynicism, where before a politician has even finished making a speech, it has been dissected and ridiculed and abused online by people, who are so amused by what they're writing on Twitter they've stopped listening to the next part."

Danger of two-ways

Having previously worked for Newsround and Radio 5 live, which are now based at Salford, Robinson said network tv news had "an awful lot to learn" from their output.

"I think the best, clearest and most engaging explanation of the world is often on Newsround, or 5 live Breakfast and Drive, because they're unapologetic about saying 'You're busy people, it's not your area… you need a bit of help'."

Replying to a question about two-ways, he said: "I think there is a danger in interviewing that everyone tries to be Jeremy Paxman and I think there's a danger in the two-way that everyone tries to be Robert Peston - to give a view, an analysis or a judgement.

"You know why he gets to do it? Because he's the best in the country at knowing what's going on in business."


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